Grandiose panoramas, a perfect spa and aching legs: That’s what Gunung Rinjani, Indonesia’s second-highest volcano, stands for. Last weekend, I set out to visit the crater of the Feuerberg. One of my most strenuous, but also most beautiful travel experiences.
“The Rinjani is my mountain,” says Alam. The 55-year-old mountain guide spent his whole life at or near the volcano: when he turned 23, tourism on the Indonesian island of Lombok began to gain momentum and Alam found work as a porter. “I did not speak a word of English then,” he recalls of his early days. “I could only say ‘yes’. That was enough for my work as a porter. “
For 16 years, Alam carried water, provisions, and tourist camping gear up the mountain every week. Between 20 and 30 kilos he had to wear each. At some point, his English was good enough to pass the exam. Since then, life has become easier for the five-time family man. “I can now earn more and less to carry, but I also have more responsibility.”
To wear these is not always easy. As peaceful as the volcano looks, it is full of dangers. A few years ago, after a sudden change in the weather, a group of local students froze to death. They had underestimated the harsh weather and brought too thin clothes. However, the still active volcano also carries risks: just three years ago, it erupted for the last time, spewing out ashes and lava.
Since the entrance was legally and legally blocked, only fields were damaged. Less than forty villagers were killed in an eruption in 1994. They were hit by a cold lahar, a volcanic mudslide. “Today, the Rinjani is safe,” explains Alam and I’m not sure if he wants to encourage our group or himself. “The volcano died a year ago.”
Gunung Rinjani: Three days over hill and dale
In Senaru, a small village at the foot of the volcano, one is prepared for the numerous trekkers. Every third house has a tour operator offering a tour. The routes differ only slightly. In most cases, a hike of three days and two nights is offered. On the first day, you gain 2000 meters in altitude and reach the edge of the volcano, from where you have a good view of the crater lake.
On the second day, the hike leads to the crater lake 600 meters below, where a hot spring gives some relief to the aching legs. In the evening you climb up to the edge again. If you still have strength, you can walk to the highest point (3726 meters) at night and experience a magical sunrise there. But only a few make it to the top after the exhausting hike.
The price difference in the tours is mainly due to the degree of luxury that you need on the trek. I had booked my tour in Gili for 120 US dollars, but there were only three warm meals per day and the zipper was damaged the zipper. Others, who paid twice, had folding chairs to rest on, and there was an additional snack. I was completely satisfied with my tour.
Pure relaxation in the thermal bath
I’m not very athletic and have survived the hike. After the first day I felt very well. The hardest part of the route, however, is anyway the descent into the crater and the subsequent ascent. The trails are extremely steep and often slippery. I have needed about eight for this part instead of the specified five hours. Accordingly, I had little time to relax in the hot springs.
Anyone who knows me knows: I love thermal baths. After being slightly disappointed almost everywhere outside of Japan (most recently on Inle Lake in Myanmar), this time I was totally thrilled. That may be because I had frozen in the tent the night before, that I could wash my sweaty body, or simply because after hours on my feet I could finally sit down somewhere.
The spa with the perfectly tempered water is quite small. Overall, hardly more than ten people in the two natural pools space. It is remarkable that everything is completely undeveloped. There are not even changing rooms. If you want to swim, you have to change your clothes with a towel wrapped around it. But that was exactly what made the charm for me.
Cigarettes and magic mushrooms
Alam takes the trip comfortably. He knows that some tourists come because of the sporting challenge and others because of the magnificent landscape. Our group is traveling slowly. So Alam always finds time to light a cigarette and tell us about his life. “When we got married, we spent our honeymoon on the mountain.” For ten days he and his wife had been traveling in the mountains. His longest trip on the Gunung Rinjani.
On the third day, just before arriving on the plain, Alam suddenly holds a mushroom in his hand. “This is my reward for the trip. If you boil it, it’s like alcohol, “he laughs, and his 15-year-old son, who was a carrier during the whole hike, grins with a knowing expression.
PARTNAME ITEMS AT TWO BLOG PARKS:
Nadine from Planet Hibbel has called in a blog parade all bloggers to write something about their best journey. Although I find this a very difficult task, I can say that the hike on the Rinjani is one of the most impressive experiences of recent years.
Bärbel von Frau auf Reisen has called in her blog parade to describe the “most beautiful volcanic experience”. Even though I was fascinated by Bromo (also in Indonesia) and Mount Aso in Japan, the Rinjani walk wins for me. Because I really have to fight for this volcano.
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